Employers often wonder what they can do with a Deaf employee and that’s because they have no idea what to do with one. The answer lies below:
Just about anything you can do with a hearing person. The only things that I would say they can’t do is talk on the phone and even then, they have accommodations that make it possible for them to talk on the phone, interact with customers, or even participate in large brainstorming groups without an interpreter. While I am not fond of advertising, there is one product out there that is exploding. The use of UbiDuo is becoming a very popular solution for Deaf employees that work in customer orientated jobs such as banking, retail, accounting, insurance, and so forth.
This product actually allows the Deaf employee to communicate with the hearing customer without an interpreter. This cuts back tremendously on interpreting costs but has a very large upfront cost. While interpreters cost between 50-100 dollars an hour depending on if you contract them from a company or find a freelance interpreter. Even then, information is missed and translation can always go wrong.
Is it ideal for every workplace? They say yes, I say no. There are workplaces that this very product would not be ideal such as a open-front restaurant where the employee is a cook or even a manager. Who wants to be typing on something when they’re trying to eat? Not exactly the best solution but is a step up from having an interpreter following the manager around all day. The UbiDuo is good for in person interactions but you may ask about the phone.
There is something called Video Phones for deaf individuals. The only downside to this is this product isn’t hard-wired to accept calls from a work number or even switchboard so this becomes inconvenient for the deaf employee and the customer trying to call because they can’t just call a number and get them through a switchboard. If customers get used to the idea of calling a different number then this could be a simple solution. But once again, this is done through interpreters and there’s always room for translation error. Deaf people could opt in using Internet Protocol Relay and that means they use a interpreter but the interpreter is typing everything down in text.
So as you can see, the most basic issues with communication CAN be resolved through reasonable accommodations, it’s just a matter of the individual being willing to use them. Some Deaf people out there do have trouble communicating through English-based methods and prefer using an interpreter.
Mary Pat Withem is a freelance writer who writes about various topics such as disabilities, deafness, education and on public awareness issues. You can read more of her work at Withem.